The Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball (2nd Edition)

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As of this writing, and presumably indefinitely, there have been three editions of the Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball, edited by Lloyd Johnson and Miles Wolff. The first edition was published in 1993, the second in 1997, and the third in 2007. Before the rise of Web 2.0, you can imagine that these large volumes were indispensable to minor league geeks who came before me. Some years back, I purchased the 2nd edition, and it is my most valued book on the minors. I read it for both reference and pleasure, and am always finding new quirks in its pages. I initially chose the 2nd edition primarily because I was drawn to the images on the cover, including an old Oakland Oaks cap, Durham Bulls patch, and old pennants of the Asheville Tourists and Utica Blue Sox. Also, this edition was compiled in a time when my childhood interest in the minors (and baseball in general) was peaking. It’s interesting to see the perspectives on the nineties era written by men who were right in the thick of it.

Let’s have a look at some of the images on both the front and back covers.

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Pacific Coast League ephemera. Oakland Oaks cap and what appears to be a Los Angeles Angels jersey

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Not too surprising to see the Bulls, given the Miles Wolff connection.

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Of course, I didn’t buy the book for some pretty pictures. There are many sections in the encyclopedia, including those that have lists of minor league teams throughout history, sorted by categories like league, city, state, etc.–somewhat similar to the DIA.

The meat of the book, however, is the large section that has several pages for each year of baseball from 1883-1996, listing the teams and team information for each league from the lowest minors to the major leagues. There is also information like all-star teams for given leagues, lists of no-hitters, etc. Here is a sample page:

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These years are broken into subjective eras, given the headings listed below:

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Each of these eras has an accompanying narrative describing certain factors evident for that particular time. For example, here is the opening paragraph to The Subsistence Years:

“The face of minor league baseball changed in 1963. Gone were hundreds of cities that had been part of Organized Baseball little more than a decade before. Gone were Class B, C and D. And, after 61 continuous years of operation, the American Association was gone, the first Triple-A league to fold.”

All in all, this volume is a great piece to have for any minor league geek. It’s remarkably accurate, and I’ve used it to clear up confusion from other very accurate sources, such as Baseball Reference. It’s fun to flip back to a random year in say, the 30s, and read the team names. It’s hilarious to read the Boom section, and reflect on how that period could be argued to still be continuing. Equally amusing is how Miles Wolff’s influence crept into the book, with his indy Northern League being listed alongside National Agreement leagues.

Nothing like a reference book with a little flair.

 

 

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